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Mount St. Helens: Reawakening? USGS Uses New Technology To Monitor Volcano [PHOTOS]

Travelers Today       By    Althea Serad

Updated: Sep 28, 2014 11:29 PM EDT

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Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Wash. Ten years ago this week, Mount St. Helens showed signs of reawakening after its 18-year slumber.

According to the Associated Press, news media and volcano enthusiasts flocked to the Johnston Ridge area to watch in close view the crater of Mount St. Helens. As the mighty volcano awoke, it sent ash erupting thousands of feet into the air.

That went on for several weeks, and during that time, the area near Mount St. Helens was closed for safety reasons.

During the course of three years, a second lava dome eventually arose in the crater of the volcano, which was measured to be about 1,076 feet above the crater floor.

According to BetaWired, the eruptions finally ended in 2008. Climbers were once again allowed to return to their adventures of climbing the summit of Mount St. Helens, and media attention also faded in time.

These days, Mount St. Helens isn't getting much media attention, which is why the U.S. Geological Survey marked the anniversary of its eruption to highlight the agency's new eruption warning technology which they have installed around Mount St. Helens.

Reports say the innovation was created to serve as a reminder that Mount St. Helens will continue to rebuild itself and awake once more.

According to the AP, scientists say the eruption which began ten years ago was only the second stage of two dome-building phases.

The first one began after May 18, 1980, when over 20 lava eruptions occurred in the next six years. According to Maine News, the only difference between the two eruptions was that their lava domes appeared at different areas in the crater.

Seth Moran, a seismologist from the USGS explained the explosions. He said that during the first eruption, geologists had been amazed that Mount St. Helens stopped blowing up in 1986, as they were expecting it to continue for a while.

Moran said, "Many of us were expecting it to continue a while."

The second lava dome began appearing in 2004 and at a different spot in the crater. Also, that lava which appeared from 2004 to 2008, was much more solid than the first phase.

BetaWired reports that the USGS had been capable of forecasting the 2004 eruption since they were able to keep track of the earthquakes. However, there had been weaknesses in the monitoring systems during both Mount St. Helens eruption phases.

According to Maine News, scientists at the USGS believe that even if the lava dome hasn't erupted since 2008, its shape still is changing. They said that almost 5 miles below Mount St. Helens, there are signs that the magma chamber which fueled both eruptions is recharging.

Dan Dzurisin, a USGS geologist said, "As it cools, it fractures and settles and falls apart."

Rockfall has also reportedly been changing the shape of Mount St. Helens' crater rim.

According to Dzurisin, the USGS is currently placing its focus on the rate of recharging of the mountain, and whether its magma can compress in the chamber, as opposed to the flow of the magma toward an outlet to the earth's surface.

Meanwhile, Moran said USGS' predictions of Mount St. Helens' eruptions by monitoring earthquakes in 2004 had fallbacks. He said that "it exposed some weaknesses in our monitoring."

According to the AP, in September 2004, the USGS was only equipped with one GPS device near Mount St. Helens at Johnston Ridge. The device reportedly did move during the eruption. After the new dome's appearance, the agency used a helicopter for a worker to put a GPS in the crater.

Moran said, "Three days later there was an explosion that wiped out that site. That really forced us to get creative about how to get instruments in close."

Since then, the agency has put up several GPS receivers around the Northwest to monitor better the activity of Mount St. Helens.

According to BetaWired, the instruments constantly determine a change of place of, even as little as one millimetre. Together with video from remote cameras, the USGS can now decrease the direct exposure of its analysts to harmful circumstances.

It is a fact that over the course of several centuries, Mount St. Helens went through phases of explosive eruptions and phases of rebuilding itself with some magma eruptions.

Hence, geologists expect more future dome-building eruptions at the volcano.

Mount St. Helens may have stopped erupting, but it is rebuilding itself for future eruptions. Moran said, "It looks like Mount St. Helens is getting ready to erupt again and it can happen in the order of years to decades."

See Now: The U.S. had the highest number of Most Wanted properties, dominating the Hotels.com Loved By Guests Awards 2018

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mount st. helens, mount st. helens national volcanic monument, mount st. helens before and after, mount st. helens reawakening, mount st. helens today
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